We live in a world of violence and senseless killing. When Jesus walked the Earth, not only did the Roman government control by violence, but even the Jews practiced stoning. One of the strengths of Christianity is that the teachings of Jesus Christ stood in total opposition to the violence of His day. When the Romans and Jews came to crucify Jesus, he told Peter, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword shall die with the sword” (Matthew 26:52). You can’t read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7 and get the picture of Jesus advocating or tolerating violence in His name. But today a group called Christian Identity promotes hatred.
Because we have some 4000 prisoners taking our Christian Evidences correspondence courses all over the country, we get letters indicating that a group calling themselves Christian Identity is very active in prisons. That group teaches that the Bible says salvation in Christ Jesus is only available to those in the white race. The consequences of such teaching should be obvious. Those teachings are not biblical and contradict everything that Jesus and the apostles said and did.
Just briefly let us point out some of the most egregious errors promoted by Christian Identity:
–They claim that “Adam” means “to show blood in the face” which is a characteristic of the white race only. Actually, the word “adam” in Hebrew means “out of the ground” indicating man’s origin. (See Genesis 3:19.)
–They say that white men governed all nations of the Earth. We have mummies, paintings, genetic studies and written testimonies that contradict that teaching. The Bible shows us that dark skin was a thing of beauty and is desirable. Read Song of Solomon 1:4-8 where one of Solomon’s wives begs him to love her for something other than her black skin. Biblically, humanity originated in the fertile crescent. (See Genesis 2:10-15.) People who are native to that area are dark skinned.
–Christian Identity invents words to fit their hate-filled message. They claim that the word “beast” used in Jonah 3:8 refers to inferior races of humans. The Hebrew word is “behemoth” which refers to a quadruped and never to a human of any kind.
Genetically we all have one common female ancestor proven by mitochondrial DNA research. Skin color is a function of latitude. If you move away from the equator, what happens to skin color? The basic principles of Christianity wipe out any claim of racial superiority. Galatians 3:27-29 is hard to misunderstand.
The Sermon on the Mount spells out the message of Jesus, and nowhere in it is there any justification for relegating secondary importance to any group. The woman at the well in John 4 was a Samaritan–a race despised by the Jews of Jesus’ day. (See John 4:9.) Jesus not only talked with her but stayed in her city for several days.
Christian Identity is a racist hate group hiding behind a corrupt presentation of Christ and the Bible. In our day of violence and hate, it is essential to know the enemy and his workers. Satan will have a field day with this group, especially in the prison population.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines anthropomorphism as “the attribution of human traits, emotions or intentions to non-human entities.” We are all guilty of anthropomorphism when we attribute the behavior of our pets to human emotions. The Oxford dictionary goes on to say that anthropomorphism “is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.”
When a dog is jumping around and barking and licking us, we assume that the behavior of the dog is because of joy. In reality, this is an instinctive behavior in animals when establishing dominance within the pack. When the same dog tucks its tail between its legs and slinks away, we assume it is feeling guilty when it is an act of submission for fear of being attacked.
Some scientists attempt to prove that humans are just animals acting out animal responses to various environments. They conduct experiments to show that animals do the things we think are unique to humans. An example is attempting to explain the human smile. For us humans, a smile is an expression of happiness, warmth, and friendliness. When an animal grins, it shows its teeth expressing terror or aggression. When you see a monkey or ape grin on a commercial, sitcom, or movie, there is a trainer behind the camera threatening it.
Human traits which are not seen in animals include worship, guilt, sympathy, and creativity in art and music. It is essential to look at other explanations when considering the behavior of animals. Recently people witnessed a female whale carrying her dead calf for nearly a week. Several newspaper articles were guilty of anthropomorphism by saying that the whale was expressing grief. Many times animals in the wild avoid the scavenging of a dead sibling or offspring by maintaining a vigil over the corpse. That instinctive action assures that the offspring is, in fact, dead, and avoids spreading the disease that killed the dead animal.
I remember a field trip I had in my NSF graduate workshop for science teachers. At an aquarium in Chicago, we watched a demonstration of natural selection. A hungry northern pike was placed in an aquarium with three small fish. One was a wounded and incapacitated minnow. Another was a slightly wounded but otherwise relatively healthy fish of the same species. The third was a healthy well-fed fish. The lesson plan said that the students should predict which of the three fish the pike would eat. Our group of teachers all agreed it would be the incapacitated minnow. For the next 30 minutes, we watched the pike tear up the aquarium trying to get the healthy minnow and avoiding the two wounded fish. We teachers debated as to why that happened, but the aquarium workers said it was frequently the case.
Humans are unique because we are created in the image of God. That allows us to do things that reflect that unique makeup. When we interpret animal behavior in human terms, we are guilty of anthropomorphism.
Philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) told the story of a king who refused to eat until he knew with certainty that his food had not been poisoned. The more he thought about how little he knew with certainty about his chef and his attendants, the more concerned he became. He finally starved to death. This story makes the point that everyone is operating on faith.
Atheists ridicule Christians for operating on faith not realizing that they depend on faith, and so does science. A classic example was a Greek scholar named Eratosthenes of Cyrene born in 276 BC. Eratosthenes noticed that on a specific day of the year, the Sun was positioned so that it illuminated the bottom of a well where he lived. From that fact, he had faith that the Earth was spherical.
On the day that the Sun shone to the bottom of the well in Syene (modern Aswan, Egypt), Eratosthenes placed a vertical rod in the ground at Alexandria and measured the angle of its shadow. Using the difference in angle of the Sun’s rays and the distance between the two locations, he calculated the circumference and diameter of the Earth with high accuracy. He even established the concept of latitude and longitude from his measurements. Scholars of Eratosthenes’ day ridiculed his idea because everyday experience suggested the Earth was flat and endless. They indicated that he was mistaken or his measurements were wrong. Their criticism did not sway the strong faith of Eratosthenes in what he believed.
A modern-day Eratosthenes would be Albert Einstein. His radical ideas were still not accepted by many in the scientific community some 40 years after he originally proposed them. The critics were silenced only when Einstein’s ideas could finally be tested and proven correct.
For many scientific discoveries in the past, that pattern has been repeated. A scientist operating on faith expressed a hypothesis based on his or her observations. The hypothesis could not be tested when the concept was proposed, but from that faith, something important was eventually discovered.
The definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 fits this scientific concept of how discoveries are made: “Faith forms the solid ground of things hoped for, perceiving as real what is not revealed to the senses.” (Amplified Bible).
Today, March 20, 2019, is a special day as the spring equinox arrives for the Northern Hemisphere. Today the Sun will set exactly in the west and tomorrow it will rise exactly in the east when observed from the Equator. The day will be exactly 12 hours long and night will be exactly 12 hours long. After today in the Northern Hemisphere, the days will be longer than the nights. Officially spring arrives today at 9:58 PM Greenwich Mean Time (5:58 PM Eastern Daylight Time where we live).
In reality, all of this is an exaggeration of the real situation.Don’t expect a balmy spring day if you live in Michigan (as we do) or other northern areas. Ice and snow have to melt, and the land has to warm up. Nevertheless, the equinox does remind us of Earth’s design and how many variables control our existence on this planet. What does happen on this day is that the Sun will be directly overhead at noon at the equator.
During the northern winter, Earth’s tilt has caused the Sun to be overhead south of the Equator. As the Earth moves around the Sun, the Sun’s location relative our planet will drift north until June. When the summer solstice occurs on June 21, the Sun will be overhead at 23 degrees north latitude. The more direct sunlight not only warms the Northern Hemisphere, but it avoids overheating the Southern Hemisphere.
If Earth did not have a 23-degree axis tilt, the Sun would beat down on the equator from directly overhead all year long. The Equator would become so hot that nothing could live there. The northern and southern latitudes would both freeze. Wind belts created by air rising violently at the equator would be hurricane force 24/7. We see that happening on planets in the solar system that do not have an axis tilt.
Ancient people knew that the position of the Sun changes throughout the year. They used elaborate but primitive observatories to determine the time to plant and harvest based on the Sun’s position. Unfortunately, this led many cultures to worship the Sun. Nowhere does the Bible encourage or condone the worship of any celestial bodies. The Bible recognizes the seasons and the role of the Sun as designed by God for human existence. (See Genesis 1:14-15).
The ancient psalmist David said it (Psalms 8:4) and the writer of Hebrews quoted it (Hebrews 2:6), “What is man that you keep him in mind or the son of man that you look after him?” The equinox is a good time to be reminded of God’s provisions for us and thankfully worship the Creator, not the creation.
Any Christian reading the newspaper or watching TV has to be disturbed by the volume of hate coming from politicians, entertainers and media people, as well as extreme special interest groups of all kinds. There are even groups formed to oppose hate that are spreading their own hatred. What should concern Christians is that some of these groups have turned out to be as extreme as the hate groups they are allegedly opposing. We are even seeing anti-hate groups attack the Bible.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Citizens for Transparency have both posted materials attacking the Bible and those who promote the teachings of the Bible. A primary target of these particular groups has been the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). As we posted before, the ADF defends people like Jack Phillips the Colorado baker who refused to create a cake for a same-sex wedding. ADF also believes in the biblical concept of marriage between a man and a woman, which the SPLC and Citizens for Transparency label as being “a hate message.”
The SPLC and Citizens for Transparency are well funded and recently placed a huge billboard attacking the ADF on Times Square. Teaching Bible morals and the principles God has established for us to live by is not hate. Concerning their attitude toward those who promote biblical principles, the SPLC has stated that their goal is to “say plainly that they aim to destroy these groups.” If teaching God’s word is accepted as hate then every Church that preaches the moral teachings of the Bible is vulnerable.
Rational human beings cannot read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7 and construe what Jesus said as hate. It is true that the way you say things is as important as what you say, but we need to be careful not to stand by as anti-hate groups attack the Bible. We cannot support them as they use the current battle over hate to condemn the Bible and promote atheism.
One of the strong arguments for the existence of God is the data that shows there was a beginning to time, space and matter/energy. If you admit that there was a beginning, then you have to deal with what was the cause of that beginning. There must be a causer of some kind.
Atheists have avoided this discussion in the past by saying that there was no beginning and that the cosmos is “self-existing.” One version of this self-existing concept is that the cosmos may be oscillating. The hypothesis is that the cosmos will eventually slow down, stop, and collapse on itself leading to another “big bang” to start the process over again. This oscillating model could be eternal thus avoiding the whole question of cause and causer.
There are several difficulties with the oscillating model. The most telling one is the evidence about the movement of galaxies and the cosmos as a whole. The newest data collected by NASA shows clearly that the universe is accelerating in its expansion. Data from doppler measurements at various wavelengths and further analyses of inter stellar-reddening continue to support the fact that the acceleration is not slowing down.
There are several possible causes of this acceleration. One is the shape of space. The fact that light bends when it goes around a massive object suggests that the curvature of space is causing the acceleration. Another view is that there is a “great attractor” beyond the cosmos that is producing the acceleration. A third view is that dark matter is producing the acceleration. Scientists are devising various ways to test these hypotheses. It is an exciting time to be a student of astronomy and astronomical evidence. Whatever the cause of the acceleration, it adds to the data that leads us to reject the oscillating universe theory.
Most discussions about this subject end up with the conclusion that there are dimensions outside of the X, Y, Z system which we experience. Theories like string theory suggest eleven spatial dimensions. Because there are so many possible equations to describe such a proposal, it falls more in the realm of fantasy than of testable, falsifiable science.
The evidence that there was a beginning is overwhelming. The biblical descriptions of God indicate that He is outside of space/time. Thus God is a logical answer to the question of what caused the beginning. “In the beginning, God” turns out to be a highly complex statement, but one that is strongly supported by the evidence.
Yesterday we mentioned that the Sun was at the exact angle to illuminate the Moon’s Jura Mountain Range. The effect is sometimes called the Golden Handle of the Moon because it resembles a small handle on the side. Since the sky was clear here in southwest Michigan last night, I took a picture of it. The tiny “handle” that you see is a semi-circular ridge surrounding a flat plain called the Sinus Iridium (Latin for the Bay of Rainbows). Sinus Iridium is actually an impact crater which has filled with lava, and the “mountains” that the Sun is illuminating is the edge of the crater.
In the NASA photo, you can see wave ripples on the surface as the lava flowed into the basin of the crater and hardened.
On our Does God Exist? educational tours of the Canyonlands we always visit Meteor Crater in Arizona. It is perhaps the best-preserved impact crater on Earth. At three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km) across, it is awe-inspiring to see. By comparison, the Sinus Iridium crater is 150 miles (240 km) across. You can also see several smaller impact craters that were formed after the lava flow.
As you examine the surface of the Moon, you will see that it is covered with impact craters caused by meteor and asteroid collisions. Earth has been bombarded with asteroids in the past. There is evidence of a large (93 mile, 150 km) impact crater called the Chicxulub Crater near what is today the Yucatan Peninsula.
Since Earth is a bigger target for impacts, why is Earth’s surface not pockmarked with craters like the Moon’ surface? Scientists have found evidence of about 190 impact craters on Earth. Most of them were early in Earth’s history, and erosion, plate tectonics, and other forces have hidden them from view. More importantly, we are protected from many of the impacts by our atmosphere. The heat from friction as a meteor enters the atmosphere at high speeds usually, but not always, causes them to burn up before they touch the ground. The more we see of God’s creation, the more we see His wisdom and power.
You can read more about impact craters and their effect on life on planet Earth in our previous posts by using these links. METEOR CRATER (also called the Barringer Crater) and the CHICXULUB CRATER. You can read about a Martian Meteorite HERE.
If the sky is clear tonight (March 16, 2019), you will have an opportunity to observe an interesting phenomenon known as the Moon’s Golden Handle.
The Sun’s light will strike a mountainous area of the Moon at a shallow angle. The Moon will be in what is known as the waxing gibbous phase. Waxing means that more of it is becoming visible as sunlight increasingly illuminates the surface. Gibbous means that it is not yet a full moon, but it is more than a half moon. At this exact angle, the sunlight will illuminate the Jura Mountain Range, and the mountains will appear as an arc on the upper left side of the Moon’s visible surface. The arc resembles a tiny handle on the side of the Moon, so it has been called the Moon’s Golden Handle.
Galileo (1564-1642) observed this phenomenon as he looked through an early telescope. You can see it with a pair of binoculars. If you have a small telescope, you can get an even better view. The angle of the light gives a unique opportunity to get an idea of what the surface of the Moon is like. Not only does the Moon have mountains, but it has lava flows and numerous craters from bombardment by meteors.
The fact that we can predict when lunar eclipses will take place and when phases of the Moon will occur shows how much precision God has built into His creation of the cosmos. We know when the Moon’s Golden Handle will be visible because we can depend on that precision as we depend on God. “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1).
Archaeological discoveries are becoming public at an astonishing rate. Some of those finds have been around for a long time, but only recently has new technology shown us what they are. An example is Pontius Pilate’s ring.
In 1969 Professor Gideon Foerster found the ring in the Judean Desert fortress known as Herodium (pictured). Now, fifty years later the ring was cleaned and examined by new tools of photographic technology. The scientists discovered that it bore a Greek inscription with the name of Pilate. Skeptics have maintained that the spelling of the Greek text suggests that it was not Pontius Pilate’s ring. Instead, it was the ring of a regional administrator who was collecting taxes for the Romans and wore the ring to stamp items for Pilate.
Historians and archaeologists will debate the actual owner and user of the ring for a long time without coming to a consensus. From an apologetic standpoint, the significance of the ring is huge no matter who wore it. Skeptics claim that the Bible is historically inaccurate. They suggest that the claims about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus are folklore and the product of a vivid imagination. The archaeological discovery of the James burial box a few years ago was wrongly interpreted because of the heavy influence of skeptical bias.
Every time a part of the biblical account is verified by an archaeological find, the skeptics’ arguments are weakened. Doubts about the existence, power, and influence of the man who condemned Jesus to death can be laid to rest with the finding of Pontius Pilate’s ring. That is true whether he wore the ring or if someone who served him wore it.
We know that Herodium was built by Herod the Great and had fallen into disrepair. Pilate restored it to serve as a Roman administrative center. Finding Pilate’s ring there, only confirms the reach of his influence and power.
Stephen Hawking’s search ended one year ago today. He was perhaps the most famous scientist in the world until his death. Hawking was a British theoretical physicist and cosmologist. In 1963, when he was 21 years old, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The doctors gave him two years to live. He far exceeded the life expectancy of an ALS patient, even though the disease gradually stole his ability to move.
By the end of his life, Hawking spoke using a computerized voice that he controlled with his cheek muscles using a slow process of selecting words and letters. In spite of his disability, he gave lectures and wrote best-selling books. His motto was “There are no boundaries.” Although he had previously written that God was not needed to explain the creation, in 2014 he openly declared himself to be an atheist.
Hawking married Jane Wilde in 1965. Over the years his illness and his celebrity put a strain on the marriage. Also, Jane Hawking was a Christian and Stephen was an unbeliever, which added to their differences. In 1990 Stephen left Jane for one of his caregivers. In 1995 he divorced Jane and married the caregiver, Elaine Mason. Stephen divorced Elaine in 2006. Hawking then resumed a closer relationship with Jane and his children and grandchildren. Jane wrote a book about their renewed relationship, and it was made into a movie The Theory of Everything in 2014. Eddie Redmayne played Stephen Hawking in the film, and the role won him the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Speaking of the “Theory of Everything,” that is what Stephen Hawking’s search was about. He and other scientists have spent years trying to discover that theory. On January 8, 2018, a new episode of the series “Favorite Places” premiered on CuriosityStream.com. In the show, Stephen Hawking was shown traveling through space to visit some of his favorite places including Venus, the Sun, and the star Proxima Centauri. Narrating the adventure with his computer-generated voice, he told about his search for the “Theory of Everything.”
“I have been searching for something my whole life. Something to explain the world that is by turns kind and cruel, beautiful and confusing. A single all-encompassing idea that can explain the nature of reality—where it all came from and why we exist at all—the Theory of Everything.”
Perhaps in Stephen Hawking’s search, he was overlooking the real answer to his questions. Is it possible that he left out the key to that answer—God. Perhaps his ex-wife Jane had the answer all along in her Christian faith. He acknowledged that the universe is amazingly fine-tuned for life. He attempted to explain that by the idea that this is only one of an almost infinite number of universes with different parameters, and we just happen to live in the one universe with the right parameters and laws to allow life to exist.
Instead of an accidentally fine-tuned universe, what if God created a perfect universe. What if God is love and He created us so that He could love us and so that we would love and serve Him. What if our failure to do so explains why the world is “by turns kind and cruel.” That would explain “where we came from and why we exist at all.” It would also explain “the nature of reality.” That is where Stephen Hawking’s search was leading for his “whole life.”
Sadly, Stephen Hawking never found what he was searching for. We think that the “Theory of Everything” is written in the Bible ready for each of us to discover for ourselves.